Friday, February 10, 2012

Poetry Coop Opens, Offers Great Workshops!

If you are looking for high quality online poetry workshops you absolutely need to go to


and see what's happening. The site is run by Lissa Kiernan, the Poetry Editor of Arsenic Lobster, which is a well-known, excellent, impossible-to-get-into-because-the-demand-is-so-high journal. However, Kiernan defies all stereotypes and isn’t snooty, pretentious, supercilious or any of those things you might expect from the editor of a high prestige venue.

Kiernan, in fact, is one of the kindest, most giving leaders in the poetry world that I know. Her Poetry Coop workshops are the latest incarnation of the Rooster Moans poetry community. The website has been completely updated, changed and in fact is a whole new website. There's a spectacular line-up of workshops, run by incredible writers. The cost ranges from free up to $325.

That’s right, you can get into FREE workshops, and some more expensive ones, led by outstanding people, such as Amy King, Susan Yount, Brenda Hammack, Maureen Alsop and (dare I say it) Owl Who Laughs himself is running a workshop, too!

Space is limited, so sign up to be a member of the coop now!

The first workshop is in progress as I type. The impresario is none other than Lissa Kiernan herself. The title is “Unbecoming Numb: Nuclear Poetics” and the topic is nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, how these are part of a destructive mindset that infects the general population. And yet poetry is an antidote, a way to become “unnumb” and face these threats to your body, your friends' bodies and, yes, civilization itself.

The workshop is booked up full, and I am a lucky participant. Kiernan’s first prompt was unforgettable, and yet I don’t have permission to reprint it here.

Shucks ...

Oh heck. Here I go.

I am going to take a big risk and reprint a single paragraph, merely one, chosen from the middle of Kiernan’s workshop lesson. I could get in trouble for this, but what can I say? Consider this a random teaser:

An audience member said she had heard that the fight vs. flight phenomena arises from our limbic system, one of the older, lower parts of the brain—the very stem of the brain. Traumatic memories got encoded and stored differently than other memories, she said, on a more primitive, primordial level, one that stores memories in images, not words. Trauma, in other words, was thought to shatter the narrative memory. And according to poet and critic John Gery, living with the constant, silent threat of nuclear trauma has produced a generation of citizens who have adapted by going numb—or going the “way of nothingness” —as he puts it in his book Nuclear Annihilation and Contemporary Poetics.

I completely agree that the American people have gone numb. And that poetry is an antidote to that numbness. The problem is that poetry itself has been exiled by the great Numbness that rules our society. The people of the US Empire have been conditioned to think that poetry is a sideshow freak.

Adrienne Rich, in her essay, “Blood, Bread, and Poetry,” shows it:

The Miami airport, summer 1983: a North American woman says to me, “You’ll love Nicaragua: everyone there is a poet.” I’ve thought many times of that remark, both while there and since returning home. Coming from a culture that encourages poets to think of ourselves as alienated from the sensibility of the general population, that casually and devastatingly marginalizes us (so far, no slave labor or torture for a political poem--just dead air, the white noise of the media jamming the poet’s words)--coming from this dominant culture that so confuses us, telling us poetry is neither economically profitable nor politically effective and that political dissidence is destructive to art, coming from this culture that tells me I am destined to be a luxury, a decorative garnish on the buffet table of the university curriculum, the ceremonial occasion, the national celebration--what am I to make, I thought, of that remark?

The United States buries its poets in irrelevance because they are dangerous to the conformist daze. Fluffy TV and avoidant video games are fine--but never let a poet get into a citizen’s heart. The citizen will start to feel deeply and empathically for all of life, not just the chosen ones--and this is very dangerous to the callous greed of Empire, its need to control the masses.

Anyway, visit Join a workshop. This is one of the most amazing opportunities available online today in the entire poetry world.

I mean it!


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